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House on the Rock

Updated on March 21, 2011

History of the House on the Rock

During the 1940’s, Alex Jordan discovered a strange rock formation in a farmer’s field, located in the Wisconsin Valley. For many years, Jordan and his family would have frequent picnics on the rock, which he leased from a local farmer. Jordan believed that right on top of the rock was the perfect location for him to build a weekend retreat. Though he had no formal architectural training or construction experience, Jordan began building by hand the structure that is now known as the House on the Rock. Jordan did much of the early construction himself, carrying bricks and lumber up the rock to build on the top. The house was created without any complete plan; Jordan simply constructed the building in whatever way seemed right to him, and the results are nothing short of amazing.

House on the Rock Made an Attraction

Jordan originally constructed the House on the Rock as a private weekend retreat for himself and his friends. However, as word got out about the interesting structure being built in the fields, curious visitors began flocking to Jordan’s getaway. When Jordan became frustrated with the volume of visitors one day, he began charging them $.50 each and found that his uninvited guests were happy to pay that for a tour of the curious House on the Rock. Jordan was delighted to find that so many people enjoyed his getaway, and became dedicated to the idea of building a place which could fascinate and amuse anyone who entered. Alex reinvested the admission funds into the house, and when the structure began to near completion, he started to accumulate furnishings and other collectibles to decorate the house in such a way as to be nothing less than fantastic.

Alex Jordan's Collection at the House on the Rock

Alex was an avid collector of all things that interested him. His interested included Asian art, lamps, dolls, guns, and books. Alex’s interest in Asian art is expressed throughout the House on the Rock, which is decorated extensively with pieces from China, Japan, and India. After completion of the house itself, Jordan began to expand his collection of other things. The house now boasts an extensive collection of antique dolls, Faberge eggs, glass vases, guns, armor, and dishes. Items are presented next to one another in ways meant to inspire guests to think critically about the pieces and appreciate them in whatever way they will. In addition to authentic pieces, the house features a large number of recreated pieces, built on site in order to meet the specific needs of the house. Guests sense of wonder at the vastness of the house and its collections is one of the key pieces of Alex’s vision.

The House on the Rock

In addition to House on the Rocks large assortment of collections, the house includes a number of exciting features which make it a true tourist attraction. The “streets of yesterday” recreates a 19th century town, complete with houses, carriages, and a number of interactive machines. The “heritage by the sea” room features an extensive collection of model ships spiraling up and around 200-foot-long sea creature. The “tribute to nostalgia” room features a number of antique cars, full size hot air balloons, and a mind boggling Rube Goldberg machine. The music of yesterday room features a number of unique instruments which have been custom made in order to look as if they are playing classic music by themselves. Perhaps the most dazzling attraction of the house is the carousel. The House on the Rock carousel (referenced in Neil Gaimon’s American Gods) is a true work of art, featuring 269 immaculate, hand carved animals, over 20,000 lights, and 182 chandeliers, complemented by a ceiling adorned with hand carved wooden angels.

House on the Rock Lives on Under New Ownership

Jordan never married and had no children, thus, he feared what would become of the House on the Rock after his death. In order to ensure the house could remain privately owned, in 1988 Jordan sold the House on the Rock to his good friend, Art Donaldson, who he trusted to carry on the legacy of the house. Jordan continued to work on the house until his death in 1989; supervising construction in the work shop and acquiring new items for the collection. The current owners still work to expand the collection slowly and to ensure Alex’s vision of fascinating and entertaining guests remains a reality.

A Vacation Video of the House on the Rock

Spring Green, Wisconsin

A marker5754 Highway 23 Spring Green, WI 53588 -
5754 Hwy 23, Spring Green, WI 53588, USA
get directions

House on the Rock

Nearby Attractions

The area where the House on the Rock is located was once covered by an ancient ocean. As the ocean waters receded, the Wisconsin River Valley was left with a number of intriguing geological features such as exciting rock formations, scenic cliffs, and deep caves for the adventurous. Thus, the Wisconsin River Valley is an all-around great place to visit. In addition to the House on the Rock, visitors to the Wisconsin River Valley will find a number of appealing things to do during their stay. Near house on the Rock, visitors can find the Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesin preservation, a monument to the legend and work of Wisconsin Native Frank Lloyd Wright. The Wisconsin Dells draw in a significant number of tourists each year who enjoy boat rides and water adventures among the cliffs.  There are a number of nearby caves and national parks in which one can find plenty of outdoor fun. The area also features a number of exciting caves which offer guided tours sure to delight visitors young and old.


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